This is an edited version of my article in April’s Platinum Business Magazine.
Shoe designer Roger Vivier once said that ‘to wear dreams on one’s feet is to begin to give a reality to one’s dreams’. Shoes capture our imagination and are a recurring cultural motif: ruby red slippers in Oz, Elvis’ blue suede shoes, Nancy Sinatra’s walking boots (the list goes on…)
Why are shoes important? A cheap or ill-fitting pair of shoes can instantly let down an entire look. It is the one element of the wardrobe that I would implore everyone to invest in. Good quality shoes lift your whole outfit, are (usually) more comfortable, and, they will last.
Men love shoes too
It’s a commonly held misconception (in my opinion) that women love shoes more than men. Many men love shoes too – they’re just quieter about it. And they tend to own fewer pairs…
The well-dressed man’s wardrobe should contain these ‘essential five’:
- For work and more formal occasions: a pair of leather brogues (dark brown or black) and a pair of black leather derby’s (with or without broguing)
- For off-duty days: a pair of loafers (leather or suede, neutral or colours), a pair of deck or boat shoes and a pair of desert boots
During the tricky transition from winter to spring, you may want to consider additional options. These work well with less formal trousers on ‘dress down’ office days as well as with denim or chinos at the weekend.
- Suede brogues: can be alternative work shoes, depending on your office
- Chukka boots: versatile lace-up leather boots that are less formal than brogues but smarter than trainers
- Leather trainers in dark colours: increasingly popular in recent years and great for very casual occasions.
21 pairs and counting
I believe women have a more explicit (if I can put it that way) relationship with shoes – one that men don’t quite understand. Women’s shoes tend to be beautiful, with the ability to transform the everyday into something spectacular. They are also the one article of clothing that remains constant – no-one has to diet to fit into them! And high heels make every woman look taller and slimmer.
Ignoring the fact that most women have, on average, 21 pairs of shoes, my ‘essential five’ for women are:
- A pair (or two) of flat shoes (ballet pumps, loafers, brogues, etc) in neutral colours that go with everything
- good court, mid or kitten heel shoes for workwear and more formal outfits
- two pairs of evening shoes – slingbacks, peep toes or strappy sandals
- knee high boots for wearing with skirts, dresses and under trousers
- a pair of wedges for height in warmer weather
Obviously you can add to these, but in doing so, please choose quality over quantity. Marlene Dietrich once advised buying one pair of good shoes instead of three pairs of poor quality. And finally, do not be seduced by a sensational pair of shoes in the sale that you know you will never wear or that are cripplingly uncomfortable. Say goodbye to them and let them go. There’ll be another pair along soon enough…